After dinner, the new lowers sat curled together on the couch, their touches a great deal more intimate than any they'd shared while putting on their act for Jack.
They'd been sitting together in contented silence for a while when Daniel spoke.
"Sam, I know that you're telling the truth when you say that you love me. . . ." His voice trailed off, the rest of the sentence left unspoken because of uncertainty that it should be uttered.
"You want to know about Jack," Sam guessed. "It's all right for you to ask, Daniel. I would if I were you. I won't lie and say I didn't feel anything for him. You know that I did. But now that I'm not being so stupid and blind, I realize that he was a . . . a safety net."
Daniel frowned. "A safety net?"
"I've never had a successful relationship, Daniel. No matter how great they seemed to be, they always ended with me getting hurt. The relationship with Jonas ended badly, and I hurt for a long time afterwards. Then I met Narim, and he was wonderful. I really came to care about him. But then we had to say goodbye, and it hurt a lot. And then Martouf came along. There were such deep feelings for him, but I didn't know if all I felt was a remnant of Jolinar's love for him. I did know that, even if I came to love him for myself and we started a relationship, I'd always have to say goodbye to him, unless I became a Tok'ra, something I knew I could never do."
Sam stared down at their linked hands. "I don't know exactly when it was that I started feeling something for Jack. Maybe it started during that whole thing with that alternate universe version of me. I guess it doesn't really matter, except that it happened after meeting Narim and Martouf, after I'd been hurt twice in the space of a year by feeling things for men that I had to say goodbye to. I think that, deep down inside, I believed that I was doomed to always get hurt, that if I let myself have a relationship with someone, they'd eventually leave, and I'd be alone. With Jack, I didn't have to worry about that because he and I could never be together. If we could never be together, the relationship would never end, and I'd never get hurt. It was safe to love him, and it kept me safe from being hurt by someone else." Sam's eyes closed for a moment. "When Martouf died, I think that I clung onto those feelings for Jack even tighter. But I know now that I never really loved him, not like I love you."
"You just wanted to love him because it was safe," Daniel surmised.
"Subconsciously, yes." Sam looked at him. "And all that time that I was feeling things for Narim, and Martouf, and Jack, I didn't see that I lost my heart to you in that map room on Abydos. If you hadn't been married. . . ."
Daniel smiled broadly. "If I hadn't been married, I'd probably have asked you out on a date after we got back from Simarka."
Sam's eyebrows lifted. "Simarka?"
"Uh huh. I have a confession to make, Sam. These feelings I have for you, I don't think they're exactly . . . new."
"What are you saying?"
"I loved Sha're. She was the center of my world during my time on Abydos, and, before she died, getting her back was my obsession, the thing I'd have done almost anything for. But, since I met you, there have been a few times when I . . . felt things regarding you that I shouldn't have. I ignored them, explained them away, but, looking back on it now, I can't deny that they happened."
Daniel's admission had really surprised Sam. "What things?"
"The first time was when you were wearing that blue dress on Simarka. You were so beautiful that you took my breath away. I couldn't stop staring at you."
"You've got to be kidding! That dress was horrid, and that headdress thing was ludicrous!"
Daniel chuckled softly. "Okay, so the headdress was a bit overstated, but you still looked beautiful. The second time was when I walked in on you and Narim kissing. It didn't bother me a lot, but there was still the tiniest twinge of jealousy. When I found you and Martouf holding hands and looking at each other so . . . intently, it was a heck of a lot more than just a twinge."
Sam stared at Daniel. "You were jealous?"
"Oh, yeah. But I refused to believe that it was jealousy. I just figured I was worried about you, concerned that you'd get hurt. We didn't know all that much about the Tok'ra at that time, how trustworthy they were. I chalked it up to brotherly protective feelings."
Sam laughed a bit at that. "I guess I should admit that I was incredibly jealous of Ke'ra."
Daniel's brows rose. "You were."
"Yep. But, like you, I reasoned that it was just protectiveness, worry that you were jumping into something because of your grief over Sha're and you'd end up really getting hurt."
Daniel shook his head. "Well, you were right about that. I was in a lot of pain, and I guess I needed something to make me feel . . . alive again. Even if Ke'ra hadn't turned out to be Linea, I doubt that our relationship would have gone anywhere. I'd eventually have realized that I was using her as a substitute for Sha're, a . . . band-aid for my heart." He looked at the woman in his arms. "Sha're would not have approved of Ke'ra, but she would approve of you. She would see what I see in you, the woman who's not just my friend and my lover but also the other half of my soul."
Moved beyond words by Daniel's declaration, Sam pulled his lips down to hers in a long kiss.
She looked deep into his eyes. "I feel the same, Daniel, and I know I always will."
The couple continued their quiet conversation. Eventually, the topic returned to Jack.
"He was the one who urged me to come here," Sam said, her head nestled beneath Daniel's chin.
"Yeah. I think he figured out what was going on before I did. I know Teal'c did."
Daniel looked down at her. "Teal'c?"
"Oh, that's right. I didn't tell you what happened before I came over here."
"I'm almost afraid to find out."
Sam told him about the conversation in his office.
"Even then, I wasn't sure about my feelings," she said. "I couldn't believe that I was in love with you and hadn't even realized it. I thought that maybe it was just a physical thing." She tightened her hold on him. "But when I realized that you were going away, that I might never see you again, I knew that it was more than just an attraction. I knew that I loved you."
Daniel placed a soft kiss on her brow. "I'm glad you realized it before I left. I think that, once I left, I wouldn't have come back. A few months away from you couldn't possibly have made me love you less or made it hurt less to see you and Jack together."
The mention of Jack saddened Sam. "I just wish. . . ."
"It's just that Jack. . . ."
"I know," Daniel said, understanding what she was trying to say. She was thinking about how the two of them being together would hurt their friend. But Daniel had a feeling about Jack, about the man's true emotions. "There's something he said to me yesterday that I have to wonder about. I think that, deep down inside, he's still in love with Sara."
Sam looked at him. "You do?"
Daniel nodded. "He admitted that he still regrets letting their relationship end."
Sam pondered on that. "Do you think there's some way that they could get back together?"
"I don't know. Charlie's death did a number on their relationship. It would take a lot to mend those bridges, although I think Jack already did to some extent after that incident with the crystal entity."
"Maybe we could help."
Daniel looked at her again, smiling. "Are you suggesting that we play matchmaker?"
"Well, no, not exactly. Perhaps we could just . . . give them a little push."
Daniel laughed softly and kissed her. "I'm still learning things about you. I bet I still will be fifty years from now."
Sam straddled his lap, pressing her hips against his. She watched as desire kindled in his eyes.
"Well, how about if we go back into the bedroom and I teach you a few more things about me?" Sam murmured huskily.
Daniel brought his lips close to hers. "I can't think of any lessons I'd enjoy more."
Janet was glancing over a chart when Daniel and Sam came walking into the infirmary. She took a double-take upon seeing them. They were both fairly glowing with happiness. Wondering what the reason for it was, she came up to them.
"My, you two certainly look pleased about something."
"Can we go to your office?" Sam asked. "We need to tell you something."
The three of them went to the office.
"The charade is over," Sam said. "No more making Jack jealous."
Janet's gaze sharpened. "Sam, are you saying that he finally made his move?"
"Nope. It's over because I figured out that I'm not in love with Jack, that I was probably never truly in love with him." Sam smiled at Daniel. "There's someone else that my heart belongs to."
Janet's eyes widened. "My God, I was right!"
That got a surprised look from both of the scientists.
"What do you mean you were right?" Daniel asked.
"It was just a suspicion I had after the dinner at my place, when you two were apparently so lost in that kiss that you were totally unaware of what was going on with Jack."
The statement got smiles of mild embarrassment from the new lovers.
"Yes, well, Daniel was the only one that night who was really aware of his feelings," Sam said. "I was still in denial, even though Daniel pretty much blew my socks off with that kiss."
Janet smiled. "Well, now I can genuinely tell you that I'm happy for you. What I said on that day you made your announcement are things that I really do believe. I think you're going to be very happy together." Her smile faded. "But what about the colonel?"
"Actually, Sam and I are hoping that we're right about something," Daniel replied, "and we're really hoping that Jack does something about it. I'm going to be doing a bit of . . . pushing in that direction in a little while."
It hadn't been easy for Jack to stop himself from calling Daniel yesterday. But he'd decided to leave it in Sam's hands to keep the man from leaving them. And Jack knew without a doubt that if Daniel carried through on in his plans to take a leave of absence from the SGC, he truly would leave them, forever. Not long after they found Sha're's son, and Jack finally knew for certain that Daniel had been telling the truth about the vision from Sha're, he'd gotten the whole story out of the archeologist, learned what happened in those brief seconds that had seemed like days to Daniel. In that vision, Daniel walked away from them, left the SGC, fully intending to leave the country. If he did it in that vision, it was likely that he'd do it in real life, if he felt that he needed to.
Jack was coming around a corner of the corridor when he saw something that made him halt in his tracks. Up ahead were Sam and, to Jack's delight, Daniel. The two scientists were close together, smiling and talking to each other. There was an intimacy about their body language that no one could mistake. As Jack watched, Daniel brushed a hand over Sam's cheek, smiling at her with an expression of utter love. She returned the smile with the same expression.
Two feelings warred inside Jack for supremacy, happiness for his friends and sadness for himself. There was no doubt that his chances of getting together with Sam were dead and buried. She'd found the true love of her life, and it wasn't him. But, if he was really honest with himself, he'd have to admit that he was okay with that. He'd done quite a bit of soul-searching these past couple of weeks and learned a lot of things about his own feelings – and not just regarding Sam.
Jack quickly disappeared around the corner before the couple could see him. He went to his office by a different route and sat at his desk. Opening his drawer, Jack took out a photo, one of Sara and him on their tenth wedding anniversary. He didn't know why he'd kept it after all these years. He just hadn't had the heart to part with it, nor with all the other photos he had of the woman he'd spent the happiest years of his life with. There were still times when he missed her so much that he ached to pick up the phone and call her. He never followed through on the desire. It was over between him and Sara, just as his hope of being with Sam was over. Perhaps he was meant to be alone, a lone wolf never finding a life mate.
A knock on the door made Jack quickly put away the photo. He picked up some papers in an effort to look busy.
The visitor was Daniel, who came into the office a bit hesitantly.
"Well, I see that you didn't go on your leave after all," Jack said.
"Um . . . no."
"So, I assume this means that you and Sam got everything sorted out."
Daniel took a seat. "Yeah. Um . . . Jack, Sam and I. . . ."
"You don't have to tell me, Daniel. I already know. You and she really are together now."
Daniel's gaze was on the desk. "I'm sorry. I know you care a lot about her."
"Yes, I do, but I also care about her as a friend, Daniel, just like I do about you, and it makes me glad when my friends are happy."
Surprised by the statement, Daniel stared at him. It had been a long time since Jack had been open in any way about their friendship. The man's words also made Daniel a little ashamed.
"I wish I could have said the same thing," he murmured. "When I thought that you and Sam were going to be together, I tried to be happy for you. I really did. But. . . ."
"It hurt too much."
Daniel nodded. "I saw you and Sam at her place after you and I talked. I thought it meant that you guys were getting together, and . . . and it hurt, a lot."
"Is that when you decided to take that leave of absence and go off somewhere?"
Daniel looked at him in surprise. "How did you know that I was leaving town?"
"An educated guess."
"Oh. I was going to go on a dig."
"Just like in that vision of Sha're's."
Daniel sighed. "Yeah."
"Well, I'm glad those plans got canceled. You didn't tell me exactly what I said in that vision to try to get you to stay, but, whatever it was, it should have included that we need you around here."
"You, uh, didn't exactly say that, but the sentiment was there."
"Good. Daniel, let me make one thing clear. I'm okay with this. Yes, it hurts, but I've gone through a hell of a lot worse and survived. I'll be fine. You and Sam really do belong together. You'll make each other happy, something I really don't think she and I would have been."
Daniel looked straight into his eyes. "Not like you were with Sara?"
Jack's expression hardened. "That's old news, Daniel, not up for discussion."
Daniel nodded faintly and got to his feet. "When you thought that Sam and I had broken up, you told me not to give up. You told me to fight for her, that you didn't want me to go through the same regrets you did with Sara."
"That's different. Sara and I really are over, have been for years."
"But does it have to stay that way? It seems to me, Jack, that you should take some of your own advice and fight for the woman that I think you might still be in love with."
Saying nothing more, Daniel walked out of the room, shutting the door behind him. Jack glared at the closed door, hating that Daniel had turned his own words against him.
Almost of its own volition, Jack's hand reached back in the drawer and retrieved the anniversary photo. He stared at it as the minutes ticked by, remembering the happy moments he'd shared with Sara before it all fell apart.
Before he realized it, the phone was in his hand and he was dialing a number he hadn't called in years.
"Hello?" said a female voice that made Jack smile.
"Sara, it's Jack."
There was a very long pause. "Jack? Why are you calling? Is something wrong?"
"No, nothing's wrong. I was just thinking about you and decided to call. How are you doing?"
"I'm good. Dad had a mild stroke a few months ago, but he's okay now."
"God, Sara. Why didn't you call me? I'd have been there for you."
"I know, but I didn't want to bother you. I know that you're busy."
"Never too busy to be there when you need me."
There was another long pause, then, "Thank you. It's . . . it's nice to hear that."
Jack sighed silently. "I guess there are a lot of things I didn't tell you, especially after Charlie died. I'm . . . I'm sorry for the way I was, Sara. I'm sorry that I wasn't there for you then like I should have been. You needed me, and I let you down. I didn't fight for us. You have no idea how much I regret that."
Jack heard a sound that made him realize that Sara was crying.
"I regret it, too," she whispered.
Jack decided to take a chance. "Sara, would you . . . would you like to have dinner sometime? You know, just for old time's sake."
Convinced that she was going to say no, Jack was stunned when she said yes.
"I'd like that," she added.
Jack couldn't stop the smile that covered his face. "So, when would you like to get together? I've got tomorrow off."
"That would be perfect."
"Great. Seven o'clock at Angelo's?"
Sara laughed. "You remember!"
"Where I took you on our first date? Of course I remember. I also remember the plate of pasta that ended up all over me when our waiter tripped over that woman's purse."
Sara laughed even harder. "Oh, he was so mortified. And the owner couldn't stop apologizing."
Jack chuckled. "Hey, we got two free dinners out of it, plus free dry cleaning for my suit and shirt."
Sara's laughter slowly faded. "Those were good times, weren't they."
"The best, Sara. The best." Jack paused. "So, I'll see you tomorrow, then. I'll pick you up."
"Okay. I'll see you then."
Jack hung up the phone, still smiling. Tomorrow couldn't come fast enough.
It had been six weeks since Daniel and Sam became lovers for real. Three weeks ago, Sam had come very close to losing the man she loved when he became addicted to a device in a Goa'uld pleasure palace. She'd watched in horror and fear as, one by one, the members of SG-5 died, knowing that Daniel would be next. He had nearly plunged to his death off his apartment balcony, very likely would have if Jack hadn't been there to stop it. When, a few hours later, Daniel's heart had stopped while they were rushing him to the gate room, Sam felt like her heart had stopped right along with his. If she could have, she'd have rushed right through the Stargate with Jack, who'd borne the body of the clinically dead archeologist. The minutes that passed before Jack contacted them and told them that Daniel was alive were the longest minutes of Sam's life. She'd then had no choice but to wait a whole two weeks before she could see him again as he and the other members of SG-1, along with the teenaged boy they'd found, slowly weaned themselves off the addictive effects of the device.
But today was not a day to think about bad things. Today was a happy day. Sam and Daniel were on a double date with Jack and Sara, this being the second time they'd done so since Jack and Sara began seeing each other again.
Looking across the table at the colonel and his former wife, Daniel and Sam couldn't help but see the happiness on Jack's face. He'd been happier and more carefree during these weeks than either of them had ever seen. He smiled more, laughed more. It was great to see.
But then, he wasn't the only one whose whole outlook on life had been transformed. Since his wife's death, Daniel had been slowly descending into a pit of hopelessness. He hadn't realized how far he'd sunk until Sam's love turned it all around. Now, he looked forward to every day and once again had hope that they could really make a difference.
As for Sam, she'd never been this happy in her entire life. Being with Daniel brought her such joy that it made all the bad stuff that came with their job so much easier to bear. She couldn't wait to tell her father that she'd at last found true love. She knew that he'd accept Daniel with open arms.
As the pleasant, conversation-filled dinner came to an end, the two couples decided to go to a movie together. While Sara used the restroom, Daniel, Sam and Jack headed outside. They heard an unexpected voice call to them and turned to see General Hammond walking toward them, another man beside him.
"General, what a nice surprise," Jack said.
Hammond turned to the man he was with. "General Weatherly, this is Colonel O'Neill, Doctor Jackson and Doctor Carter."
The general shook all of their hands. "Colonel, doctors, it's nice to finally meet you. I've certainly heard plenty about you."
"Uh oh. That can't be good," Jack said with a small smile.
"On the contrary, George here has nothing but praise for all of you, and he's not the only one, which is why I'm delighted about this new development."
"What new development, sir?" Sam asked.
Weatherly smiled and looked at Hammond. "I'll let him be the one to tell you. George, I've got to get going. Thanks for the dinner. Next time, I buy."
Hammond smiled. "It's a deal, Elton."
As Weatherly walked away, Sara joined them.
"What was he talking about, General?" Jack asked his C.O.
"What was who talking about?" Sara asked. "Did something happen?"
Hammond looked at the three people under his command. "I was going to tell you in the morning, but I suppose I could go ahead and do so now. Come. Let's go into the parking lot where we have a bit of privacy."
They went to a section of the parking lot that had no cars.
"Normally for a conversation like this, I'd ask that Sara please excuse us," Hammond said, "but since she already knows about the program, she can stay."
Jack smiled at the woman he'd found love with again. Not long after they'd started dating, he'd requested permission to tell Sara about the Stargate Program. The initial reply from Washington was a resounding no, but after Jack pointed out that Sara was a witness to the events that transpired with the crystal entity and had never said a word to anyone, they were more inclined to believe that the secret of the Stargate would be safe with her. Hammond helped change the answer to 'yes'.
Being able to tell Sara about the program, about the dangers, fears and doubts Jack faced on a daily basis, had brought them much closer together, even closer in some ways than they had been when they were married. The secrecy of his job had always been between them, but not anymore. He couldn't tell her about ongoing missions, but she had accepted that limitation, satisfied that she could far more fully be a part of his life.
Jack's attention returned to Hammond when the man resumed speaking.
"You are probably unaware of this, but I have continued petitioning that Doctor Carter be allowed to return to the Air Force."
Sam gasped slightly.
"Sir, are you saying that you've succeeded?" Jack asked.
"No, but I have succeeded in another regard." Hammond turned to Sam with a warm smile. "Congratulations, Doctor. You are once again a member of SG-1."
A smile of pure delight beamed across Sam's face, and she threw her arms around Hammond, something she'd never have had the nerve to do when she was in the Air Force.
"Thank you so much, sir," she said.
Hammond returned the hug, smiling at her fondly. "It was my pleasure, Sam. Besides, this will mean that I no longer have to explain why a certain colonel keeps rejecting every new member of his team."
They all turned to Jack, who had the good grace to look slightly embarrassed. Captain Seacrest, the sixth person to take Sam's place on the team, had requested a transfer within an hour of SG-1's return from their enforced two-week stay on the planet with the Goa'uld pleasure palace, having had enough of Jack's attitude.
Daniel was delighted by the turn of events, knowing how much Sam had missed being on the team. It would be great to go on missions with her again.
It was then that a thought struck him.
"General, what does this mean for Sam and I?" he asked. "We'd be teammates again."
The look on Sam's face told Daniel that she hadn't thought of that.
"Don't worry, Doctor Jackson," Hammond said with a smile. "Everyone who gave the green light for this knows that you and Doctor Carter are in a relationship. It made my job a bit tougher, but they agreed that, as long as it didn't interfere with your performance on missions, you could continue dating. Now, if it ever did become a problem, then some decisions would have to be made."
"It won't be a problem, sir," Sam quickly said.
"I'll make sure of it," Jack added.
Two days later, the four members of SG-1 stood at the foot of the ramp as the Stargate dialed up. Daniel looked at Sam, smiling at the expression of eagerness on her face.
"It feels good, doesn't it," he said.
"You have no idea," she responded. "I knew that I'd missed going on missions, being with you guys out there, but I didn't really realize how much I'd missed it until now." Sam looked at him. "Daniel, if we hadn't gotten together and you'd left, gone off to Egypt, would you have missed going through the gate?"
"Yes," he replied without hesitation. "In the beginning, being on SG-1 and going through the gate was just a means to an end, a way to search for Sha're. But, well, it kind of gets in your blood."
Sam smiled. "Yes, it does."
"I could have lived without it, but a part of me would always have missed it."
Just then, the Stargate burst into life. The MALP was sent through, and the team waited for the video feed to come back. A minute later, Hammond's voice came over the speaker.
"It looks all clear, SG-1. You have a go."
With a shared smile and a brief clasp of hands, Daniel and Sam followed Jack and Teal'c into the event horizon, friends, lovers and, now, teammates once again.